Navy secretary sizes up European bases
August 4, 2003
NAPLES, Italy — The Navy could be in for some changes in the location of its forces, top Defense Department officials said.
On a tour of naval bases in Europe, Hansford T. Johnson, the acting secretary of the Navy, and Raymond F. DuBois, the deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, are looking at force structure and quality-of-life issues.
An objective observer would say it’s a good idea to keep the bases in the Mediterranean, DuBois said.
“But do we keep them in the same configuration, do we keep them in the same force structure?” asked DuBois.
Besides Naples, Johnson and Dubois also are visiting bases in Crete, Spain and England during a six-day tour.
The European theater will see changes and realignments, DuBois said.
“The American taxpayer deserves no less when they pay for overseas installations that they be in the right place, that they be the right size and they have the right capability and capacity,” he said. “We’ve got too much capacity right now in the European theater.”
And while the military examines forces’ locations in Europe, the Navy is looking at new ways of doing business, the Navy secretary said.
“We are looking at new ways of being on call as opposed to having all our forces forward-deployed,” Johnson said.
The new optimal manning program relies on technology to reduce the numbers of sailors on ships. Johnson talked to sailors participating in the initiative.
“The sailors like it very much,” he said, noting that some have to stand fewer watches. “They say there’s no room for slackers, and they’re very proud of that.”
Another program, Sea Swap, is also going well, he said. But he doesn’t know the future of Sea Swap, during which crews swap mid-deployment to extend a ship’s time away from its homeport.
“We have to make sure the ships can stay out for extended periods of time from a maintenance standpoint,” said Johnson, noting the Navy isn’t planning to implement the initiative on all ships.
Johnson took over as acting Navy secretary in February. President Bush’s original nominee for the position was Colin R. McMillan, who committed suicide July 24. Johnson, 67, said he hasn’t been asked to take on the job permanently, but if Bush asked, “certainly, I would.”
Johnson and DuBois, 56, said that during their naval bases tour, they wanted to get an understanding and appreciation of the installations and the missions that might work at them.
DuBois said the information they gather will be passed on to the Secretary of Defense, whose report on base closures and realignments for the United States and its territories is expected in 2005.
“In order to do that intelligently, he must have looked at his global presence … and decided which force structure should be brought back to the United States,” DuBois said.
While he didn’t know how many overseas bases would see changes, Dubois said. “We’re going to see more and more multimission, multiservice installations,” overseas and in the States, as the services are fighting, training and deploying jointly.
Bomb scare prompts evacuation
NAPLES, Italy — Much of Naval Support Activity Naples’ Capodichino complex was evacuated Saturday afternoon after two military working dogs signaled positive readings for explosives in the on-base hotel room of an aide to Acting Secretary of the Navy Hansford T. Johnson.
Italian explosive ordnance disposal personnel later determined there were no explosives in the room.
Lt. Susan Henson, Naples base spokeswoman, said military working dogs routinely sweep high-ranking guests’ rooms before visits.
Johnson and Raymond Dubois, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment, were scheduled to spend Saturday and Sunday nights in the facility as part of a visit to European Navy bases.
The first military dog was walked through the aide’s room and registered a positive for explosives by sitting down in front of a dresser drawer in the armoire. Another dog was brought into the room, independent of the first.
“The second dog also alerted in the same area,” Henson said.
Base officials blocked off an area around the Capo Inn lodging facility, evacuating the base library, movie theater, gymnasium, Navy Exchange mini-mart and medical and dental clinics around 2:30 p.m. About 100 military and civilian personnel were moved to the base’s main courtyard.
At the same time, base officials called the EOD unit of the Carabinieri, the local Italian military police, which arrived with its military working dog around 3:30 p.m.
The dog was walked through the room and did not indicate explosives in the armoire, Henson said.
However, at about 6:30 p.m. Italian EOD personnel placed and detonated a small explosive charge in the armoire to ensure there were no other explosives present.
Henson said that the base reopened the affected areas around 7 p.m.
Flights at the adjacent civilian airport were not affected.
— Jason Chudy